Yours, Mine and Ours. That’s the name of a movie first released in 1968 and remade in 2005. It’s the perfect metaphor for life in the community we call church.
The plot is simple. Man meets woman. Man and woman fall in love. Man and woman marry. Man and woman adjust to life together. Add to that toxic mix eighteen children and the story of this blended family becomes hilarious and heart warming. It’s The Brady Bunch on steroids.
Except for all the hijinks and pratfalls, Yours, Mine and Ours could be the tale of life together in a church family, a very cautionary tale.
Most of us take great pride in the church to which we belong. You talk about it as if it’s “your” church. On Monday, I talk about things that happened at “my” church. When we invite neighbors to join us at “our” church. That’s healthy. That’s normal. And, that’s potentially problematic.
Like the movie family, the church family is a blended family. We come from different families. We come from different churches. Like any blended family, we come with our own baggage, good and bad.
Your bad experience at the last church influences how you respond to new experiences at this church. Your preferences are informed not only by what you like but what you’ve seen and done elsewhere. Your vision for our future is based on your past.
Thus, for each of us, we mean something entirely different when we describe “our” church as “my” church. Church means different things to different people. On any given Sunday there are many different churches gathered together under one roof.
When you add new people into the familial mix, the family changes. Every time someone new comes to a church, that church changes. It has to. It can’t stay the same. New people mean a new ideas and longings. Thus, the church this week is not the same church from one year, six years, or sixty years ago. It can’t be. It shouldn’t be. It never will be.
That’s also a challenge. Each of us wants to think of the church as “ours.” By that, however, we rarely mean the collective “ours.” We mean the possessive “ours.” In other words, we may say “ours” but we mean “mine” according to my vision, my interpretation, my desires, and my hopes. The longer we keeping thinking of “our” church as “my” church we’re going to struggle with fulfilling Jesus’ desire for true unity in the church.
We must stop seeing new people as a mixed blessing. We must stop embracing new faces while pushing away new personalities. Those new faces bring with them their own “baggage.” That’s part of the deal.
As I say frequently, the church doesn’t have to change to grow but the church has to change, if it grows. It’s inevitable. Thus, what was once “yours” and what became “mine” must always be becoming “ours” as we constantly adapt to the new reality of the church God is building one new person at a time.
For most of us, that’s a hard pill to swallow. We like and love our church for what it was when we joined. That’s why we joined. We liked it that way. We don’t want anything to change. Remember, however, new people like a church for the way it is now, when they join, not for the way it was when you joined.
Until we recognize and accept the harsh reality of living in an ever-changing blended church family, we’re never going to be satisfied. We will always long for the way it was, be it here or there, now or then. We will always be disappointed in the present results. That’s no way to live. That’s a recipe for emotional, spiritual, and ecclesiastical disaster.
The answer, however, isn’t to give up your personality or your preferences. The answer is to recognize that it isn’t “your” church. It isn’t “my” church. It’s not even really “our” church. It’s Christ’s church, His bride. Like any marriage, we need to give Him the keys to our heart, to let Him have His way, and let Him get all the glory for the church family He is bringing together under one roof.